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As I roved out one May morning
Down by the riverside
And there I saw a bold fisherman
Come rowing down the tide
Come rowing down the tide
And there I saw a bold fisherman
Come rowing down the tide

"Good morning to you, you bold fisherman
How came you a-fishing here?"
"I came a-fishing for your sweet sake
All down the river clear"

He then pulled off his morning gown
And gently laid it down
And there I spied three chains of gold
All round his neck hang down.

Down on her bended knees she feel
And aloud for mercy cried
For calling you a bold fisherman
I'm sure you are some lord

"Arise, arise you gay lady
From off your bended knees:
There's not one word in all you said
That hath offended me."

"We'll now go to you father's house
And married we will be
And then you'll have your bold fisherman
To row you on the sea."

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Source: The Life of a Man, EFDS Publication, 1972

Collected by Ken Stubbs from George Maynard, Three Bridges, Sussex, 1956 (or thereabouts)

Ken notes include the comment "This is one of our oldest folk songs. Some students consider that the bold fisherman was not Jesus Christ (the fisher of men) but an earlier Saviour."

Ken's opinion of both the age and the nature of the song appears to be based on ideas by Lucy Broadwood.
In her notes accompanying a version of the song noted from Mrs. Joiner of Chiswell Green, Hertfordshire (1914), Lucy Broadwood suggested that it was "a vulgar and secularized transmutation of a medieval allegorical original". (Journal of the Folk Song Society, vol.V issue 19, 1915: pp.132-135). Though it's an interesting thought, her "evidence" seems today to be slim to the point of non-existence; we should bear in mind, of course, that such ideas were quite fashionable at the time.

As of August 2002, the earliest documented copy of this song we have is dated between 1813 and 1838.

This is widely distributed song and has been collected from Harry Cox and the Copper family in the UK. It has also been collected in the US by Elie Sigmeister in New York according to Dick Gaughin (date unknown).

Roud: 291 (Search Roud index at VWML) Take Six
Laws: O24

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